If you need to pay a ticket, read an ordinance or find out about a meeting, the city of Vilonia will soon have a place to gather the information rather than getting in the car and making the drive to the city administration building.
The Vilonia City Council approved contracting with Tim Vahsholtz of Quartslight Marketing to develop the website, cityofvilonia.com, at a cost of $375 per month beginning in September through the end of the year. The company’s job will be to create the technical end of the website and to teach content management to the staff. However, Mayor James Firestone and the council passed on a proposal to contract with the company to "brand" the city, citing financial concerns. That might be a consideration, Firestone said, for a later date.
The basic site has been set up for a few months. Vahsholtz referred to it as a "great tool" for the city, allowing a variety of information to be placed on the site.
"There is not a lot of content on it yet," he said. You can build as much as you want on it, he added. The system being used, he said, "anybody can use." The staff will be able to manage the content as needed.
Vahsholtz said he has been working with the city of Mayflower for about three years and their site and branding is almost finished. He also said he is working with the city of Greenland.
On the subject of branding, Vahsholtz told the council that branding is marketing the city’s assets to the rest of world. His company will hold meetings with local focus groups to determine "who you are and what you have to offer," and who you want to be your target base — both business-wise and to residents. He made reference to "figuring out personas."
"Maybe what everyone thinks you are is not what you want to be," he said.
In other business, the council approved an ordinance to rezone 1.8 acres of land on N. Mt. Olive, allowing Earl Free to put in a machine shop. Fred Fowlkes, city engineer/building inspector, recommended the approval, saying it had been approved already by the planning commission.
In another matter, the council approved providing financial assistance to the senior citizens center, helping them to pay for air conditioning repair. The total cost was $4,500. The city approved paying half of the cost.
• Firestone said the bid for site grading has been awarded to WK Contractors, who was the low bidder, at a cost of $154,666.50. Four contractors submitted bids.
• There was mention of a grant of $250,000 that has been awarded for building the street maintenance building and street paving by the Arkansas Department of Rural Services.
• Firestone said he has applied for an Economic Development Loan for a second time to help with problems caused by not only the 2011 and 2014 tornado but also by the 2008 ice storm that caused damage in the city.
Fire department. Chief Keith Hillman said the last payment has been made on the fire truck. We are debt free, he announced. Also the annual photo fundraiser has wrapped up with the department making $8,500.
Firestone commended the department for their service.
He said he was on hand for a training exercise where they burned a house near the post office, wearing 80 pounds of gear on a hot day. They practiced going through doors and windows, he said. With the heat from fire and the sun beating down, he added, you are able to gain a new perspective for what the firefighters do on a daily basis.
Police department. Chief Brad McNew said the department has received notification that they have received a federal grant to upgrade their security vests. The grant will pay about 50 percent of the costs. He said he will apply to the Arkansas Chief’s Association to also help with the cost.
McNew talked briefly about damages to a couple of police cruisers. The most recent one involved a cap blowing off of an 18-wheeler during a transport, resulting in a Vilonia cruiser being hit by it and causing damage. McNew said the trucking company’s insurance will be required to pay for the damage. Another cruiser was damaged by lightning. "I just can’t seem to get a break right now," he added.
Alderman Jim King joked with McNew about writing a book on oddities.
Code enforcement. Fowlkes said there have been 20 building permits issued since the tornado, including 13 single family residences, a duplex, a restaurant, a daycare and additions.
He also reported on a meeting with a recovery group from Joplin, Mo., in regard to their recovery efforts following a tornado that devastated that area about three years ago. Three years down the road, he said, they are not through with the recovery process. He touched on some of the things they have done and are doing. They have added 250 new businesses since the tornado. One thing they do, he said, is celebrate their recovery, adding that that might be a good thought to do in Vilonia.